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Cylinder Seals from the Collections of the Aleppo Museum, Syrian Arab Republic, vol. 1, Seals of Unknown Provenience.

This, the first of two projected catalogues on the cylinder seal collection of the Aleppo Museum in Syria, concentrates on seals of unknown provenance acquired through purchase, confiscation, and gift. It appeared only two years after the author's appointment to the curatorship of cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals in 1985. Fortunately, for the benefit of non-Arabic speaking scholars and collectors, the catalogue was translated into English by Louise Hitchcock. The catalogue contains 288 previously unpublished cylinder seals. Each entry includes the seal's museum number, material, condition, and acquisition date followed by a brief summary of its subject matter, a detailed description of its iconography, its approximate date and classification.

Most of the seals were purchased between 1940 and 1960, 61 were confiscated in 1980; in many cases, however, the acquisition year is unknown. The identification of the seal stones was presumably taken from older museum records, and certain vague designations such as "black," "red," or "green flint" and "green," "grey," or "red stone" could be improved by modern scientific analysis. Few reference books were available to the author for research and it would appear from his organization of the catalogue, the descriptive terminology, and certain classifications that he relied mainly on the studies of Frankfort, Moortgat, and Porada.

The seals are consequently grouped according to the then-conventional Mesopotamian classifications: Jemdet Nasr (1-26); Early Dynastic I (27-30), II (31-36), and III (37-40); Akkadian (41-65); Gutian (66-69); Ur III (70-75); Isin-Larsa (76-80); Old Babylonian (81-103); Kassite (104-5); Cappadocian (106-42); Old Syrian (143-73); Middle Syrian (174-81); Mittanian (183-212); Middle Assyrian (213-21); Neo-Assyrian (182, 222-86); and Achaemenid (287-88). Some classifications, which have since been adjusted or refined, will need to be revised. The Early Dynastic period in Babylonia, for example, is now generally subdivided into two phases.(1) Accordingly, seals 27-32, composed of mainly geometric designs and animals, would be assigned to ED I-II (with the exception of seal 30, which may be earlier); seals 33-40, composed of contest scenes and banquet scenes, belong to ED III. The Cappadocian group, which includes a great many regional styles between Assur and Cappadocia, tends to be the most heterogeneous. Several seals of this group and others could be accommodated elsewhere.

Jemdet Nasr: 30 Early Dynastic A: 185 (Diyala) Early Dynastic B: 50 Early Dynastic (Iran?): 133? Akkadian: 65 (signs of Samas is a diagnostic Akkadian feature(2)) Ur III: 99 (the bull or "ox" is secondary) Old Babylonian: 48, 98?, 143, 206 Cappadocian/Old Assyrian: 195? Old Elamite: 101 Old Syrian (pre 18th cent.): 156, 169, 199(3) Late Old Babylonian: 202 Mittanian: 178, 258?, 271, 273, 274 Middle Cypriote: 220 Middle Assyrian: 225? Neo-Assyrian: 194, 221 Seals considered doubtful or even fake are not segregated at the end but included in each group. This has the advantage that suspicious or unfamiliar seals can be reintegrated in the event that parallels are found in controlled excavations. Among the doubtfuls which may in fact be authentic are: 103, 104(4), 115(5), and 183. In addition to those already marked as doubtful, the following seals are unusual: 61 (arm of interceding deity), 110 (inverted crescent and disk), 112, 117, 120, 131, 137, 149, 154, 165 (all standing figures face away from seated figure), 189, and 201.

The descriptions are sometimes not quite accurate, but the reader can easily consult the photographs which are wellplaced on the opposite page. Some photographs are unfortunately out of focus, and in only one case (no. 155) was the seal itself reproduced beside the impression, as would have been useful in all cases. Another helpful feature, which could be included in the next volume, is a table of contents.

The publication of this small but difficult collection of unprovenanced seals is a welcome addition to the existing corpora on cylinder seals. The Aleppo Museum's collection of seals from stratified contexts, though larger, should be easier, and we look forward to its publication as well.



1 N. Karg, Untersuchungen zur alteren fruhdynastischen Glyptik Babyloniens, Baghdader Forschungen 8 (Mainz, 1984), 84; D. P. Hansen, "The Fantastic World of Sumerian Art: Seal Impressions from Ancient Lagash," in Monsters and Demons in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: Papers Presented in Honor of Edith Porada (Mainz, 1987), 53ff.; and D. Collon, First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East (London, 1987) 20.

2 See D. Collon, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum, Cylinder Seals II: Akkadian-Post Akkadian-Ur III Periods (London, 1982), nos. 157, 172-74, among others.

3 Compare D. Collon, "A North Syrian Cylinder Seal Style: Evidence of North-South Links with Ajjul," in Palestine in the Bronze and Iron Ages: Papers in Honour of Olga Tufnell, ed. J. N. Tubb, Institute of Archaeology (London, 1985), 66, nos. 4 and 12.

4 See K. Reiter on seals nos. 104 and 105 in Altorientalische Forschungen, Berlin (forthcoming).

5 Compare M. Sigrist and C. Gavin, Neo-Sumerian Account Texts in the Horn Archaeological Museum, Andrews University Cuneiform Texts, vol. III (Berrien Springs: Andrews University, 1988), pl. CIII, seal impression on text 479. For recent compilation of clay seals see L. al-Gailani Werr, "Cylinder Seals Made of Clay," Iraq 50 (1988): 1-24.




Twenty of the cylinder seals in this catalogue bear inscriptions and have been published under the following numbers:
OAkk 58-60

OB 81, 82, 84, 87, 88, 90, 93, 97, 98,
 102, 103

OA (Cappadocian) 106, 107

MB (Kassite) 104, 105

NB 286

Most of these inscriptions have already been rendered by Hammade, but some of them merit special attention and to these I offer transcriptions, comments, and suggestions (abbreviations follow CAD).

No. 58

1bu-ri-a 2ir be-li-a-ri!- |where~ ik! 3ir <dX>

Commentary: 1.2 For -arik in OAkk PNs cf. AHw 63b meaning "(The life) of my Lord is long." Another possible reading is: be-li-a-hu |where~ um, to be compared with Sin-ahum "Sin is brother", cf. Stamm. Namengebung 29 and |less than~ 31.4a+d.

1.3 Because of the intrusion of the last sign of 1.2 into 1.3, the DN usually written in this line was omitted.

No. 59

1u-bar-um: dub-<sar> 2dumu sa-lu-lu

Commentary: 1.1 Prof. H. Waetzoldt/Heidelberg suggested this reading. For this kind of 'broken writing' of the name Ubarum see the OB Ur texts UET 5, 5 V : 45 and UET 5, 24, 5; but cf. also the seal inscription on YOS 12, 42 rendering the name |u-bar~-ru-|um~.

1.2 salulu as variant for sululu? According to AHw 1111 and CAD S 242, this variant is only known from Asn. I 44 and one lexical text.

No. 64


Commentary: The inscription is difficult to read. MA looks more like SI, but for the well attested mother goddess Mami/Mammi in OAkk PNs cf. J. J. M. Roberts, The Earliest Semitic Pantheon (1972), 43f. and MAD 5, 115 and 119.

No. 81

1dbu-ne-ne 2al-lu-ha-ap-pu 3sa-ra-am dutu

Commentary: This seal inscription bears on some aspects of the god Bunene.

1.2 alluhappu is a kind of net or a demon according to AHw 37f. and CAD A/I 359, attested only in SB texts.

1.3 The first sign is clearly ZA, so this must be a participle of saramu "to be concerned" (AHw 1083 and CAD S 101), i.e., "concerned about (the welfare?) of Samas."

Bunene is a deity belonging to the Samas circle.

No. 84

1d|....~ 2|du~mu... 3gu-gal diskur? 4dx

Commentary: 1.3 gugallum = "inspector of canals."

1.4 was never completed.

No. 87

1.2 read: dumu hu-sa-mi!

No. 88

1.1 read: dAN!-mar-tu

1.2 read: u! das-ra-tum

No. 98

1dutu 2da-a

Commentary: Samas and Aja alone are found on typical OB seals, cf. YOS 12, 225 = Samsu-iluna year 7 (see YOS 12 p. 77), and seal no. 103 of this publication. The date should read therefore "OB," not Kassite.

No. 102

1|x~-diskur 2mi-sa-ka-nu 3sa diskur

Commentary: 1.2 This must be a type of priestly profession which is unknown to me. Collation of this line would be useful.

No. 103

1dutu 2da-a

Nos. 104 and 105: see forthcoming article in Altorientalische Forschungen, Berlin ("Zwei Siegel aus dem Aleppo Museum: Kassitisches Original und antike Kopie?").


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Author:Stein, D.L.; Reiter, Karin
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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